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Software Review: Perfect Layers From onOne Software

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Perfect Layers is the newest product from onOne Software and it is the only one that will allow you to work with layers inside of Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture. Until now, if you wanted to do layer based work on one of your photos, you had to use a Photoshop product. Now that has changed. Perfect Layers was inspired by, and designed in conjunction with NAPP President Scott Kelby.

Perfect Layers was created because more and more people are using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Apple Aperture for the majority of their work with photographs. Many don’t use Photoshop at all. By having a way to work with layers within these products, makes each of these product much more powerful.

By using Perfect Layers you can create and edit multi-layered Photoshop files directly from within Lightroom and Aperture. By using this capability you can use it to combine images, change skies, retouch photos using the built-in blend modes, add textures, logos, and much, much more. To see what is required to run the Perfect Layers, please refer to the specs page for proper minimum system requirements.

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So what is new with Perfect Layers?

• Create layered files that are compatible with Adobe Photoshop. This will truly give you the power of layers. If you have worked with layers in Photoshop, then you know all the different things that you can do to an image including swapping skies, removing people or objects, retouching portraits, and much more.

• Blending Modes give you the ability blend layers together – especially with copies of the same or similar images. You can control brightness, contrast, and the color of an image. With the ability to adjust the opacity, you can control the strength of the effect which and afford you the ability to create very stylized effects.

• Masking Tools will let you control how much of each layer is visible through the use of the MaskingBrush and MaskingBug. These work like a layer mask in that you can use the MaskingBrush to reveal or hide areas of a layer. The MaskingBug lets you create gradient masks for making vignettes and graduated filter effects. Both of these tools work together and are non-destructive. These maskes can even be re-edited in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. With a Wacom tablet you can control the brush size and opacity based on how hard you press while painting.

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• Color Fill Layers are layers that are filled with a solid color and are used to change the color or layers under them. These too are non-destructive and re-editable as well. They include presets that simulate common color correction and black and white conversion filters. Through the use of the masking tools, you can selectively place and control the strength of these effects.

• Controls give you the power to size and align your layers. Through the use of simple tools, you can change the order of layers, adjust their size and rotation as well as changing their blending mode and opacity.

• PSD file format is completely Adobe Photoshop compatible and lets you work within both programs.

So how do you work with Perfect Layers? Effectively you have three ways, one is from within Adobe Lightroom, one is from Apple Aperture, and the third is as a stand-alone application. Keep in mind that the last method will only give you the ability to work with the layers themselves and assumes that the images have been pre-prepared.

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Take for example, when working in Lightroom, first you prepare your images. In this case, I used an image of a windmill in a field with a large blue, but otherwise uninteresting sky. So after processing the image, I selected from the file menu Plug-in Extras->Perfect Layers to launch Perfect Layers.

Next I located a cloud scene from one of my libraries and added it as a layer. Since the cloud image was larger than the main image, I used the transform tool within Perfect Layers to adjust to the proper size. By dropping the opacity of the cloud image I could see the main image below to accomplish a proper fit.

Next I took the Masking Bug and dropped it on the image of the clouds and allowed the clouds to show up over the image. Finally using the paint brush, and manipulating between painting in and out with feathering and opacity I could fine tune the details around the windmill and trees to achieve a good blend of old and new sky.

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That was all there was too it. It took about 15 minutes total to completely change the image and create a much more satisfying one. If you are one of those who really only need to work in Lightroom or Aperture, then I feel that Perfect Layers is a must have add-on. Even if you do occasionally use Photoshop, Perfect Layers can probably reduce the amount of time that you have to fire up Photoshop and will allow you to stay within Lightroom or Aperture and because of that, I very highly recommend onOne Perfect Layers!

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.